MILAM COUNTY, TX — Milam County Judge Steve Young announced Tuesday that he and county commissioners will be giving $250 to each local family who vaccinates their children, ages 12 to 17, for the coronavirus.
That $250 is given per child, so families with multiple members meeting the age range can receive even more money.
The incentive comes as an effort by county officials to vaccinate all area residents. Milam County is home to approximately 2,400 kids between the ages of 12 and 17. Judge Young explained that the local government has received enough federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, that such a campaign is financially feasible.
"The idea here is, if it takes a little money to come down and get your shot, so be it," Young said. "I’m happy, on my part, to give them the money and be a part of it, so that they will get the shot.”
Children ages 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is administered in two rounds. Once a child has received their second and final vaccine, their legal guardian may bring the vaccination card and that adult’s proof of Milam County residency to the county auditor’s office in Cameron.
"We don’t care where the children get vaccinated," Young said. "If they get vaccinated here in Milam County or Bell County, I don’t care - as long as they get vaccinated.”
Residents such as Thomas Alexander, a father of two teenagers in Gause, question this action being taken by the county.
Alexander said his family, who are not vaccinated, would choose to vaccinate if the treatment had not been approved by the FDA through Emergency Use Authorization [EUA].
"To jump all these hurdles that are usually there, to get [the vaccine] pushed through; it just doesn’t seem safe to us," said Alexander.
Alexander confirmed that he has seen other notes of hesitation and frustration from fellow community members, through a popular local Facebook group.
"I'm one of the admins on 'Milam County News and Crime,' and kind of scrolling through some of the comments, they’re not very friendly," he said. "A lot of people are not backing this. They think it’s an incentive to lead people to something that shouldn’t be in place.”
Other local parents, such as Milam County emergency dispatcher Lorena Banda feel differently, and are ready to have their children treated.
Banda is a mom of four kids in the aforementioned age range, and she plans to take her children in for their Pfizer vaccines on Thursday. She said she had always planned to vaccinate her children, even before the money was offered.
"My oldest sister, who works at the district clerk’s office said, ‘Hey, are you going to get them vaccinated?' and I said, ‘Yes, don’t worry' - later I found out what was going on," Banda said. "I [hadn't previously] known what was going on. I only knew I was going to get my kids vaccinated. The kids already know we’re doing it for Grandma and Grandpa.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) does say that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children over the age of 12, and that it's benefits do outweigh any potential risks. The CDC website provides information about how vaccines are administered, how to ready a child for an immunization, and what mild side effects families can be prepared for.
The Milam County Health Department will offer a special children’s clinic on-site, Thursday from 9 a.m to 3 p.m.
The department office is located on Houston Avenue in Cameron.